USA captain Saurabh Netravalkar is optimistic about the future of cricket in America as his team pushes to feature in the 2023 ODI World Cup in India.
In an interview with The CricBlog Podcast, Netravalkar said that USA cricket’s immediate goal is to compete with full-member nations in the coming years.
“It’s probably too early to say how USA cricket can compete with the likes of baseball and basketball in the country,” said Netravalkar. “The best we can definitely compete with full-member nations in the next 4-5 years; there definitely is the potential.”
Qualification to the 2023 ODI World Cup will no doubt have a huge impact on USA cricket, exposing the American audience to their national team playing on such a grand stage. Netravalkar’s team is currently third in the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup League 2 table, and if they stay there, they will qualify for the ODI World Cup Qualifier tournament in Zimbabwe in mid-2023.
“I have been telling the coach for the last two years, we have to aim to play the 2023 World Cup in India. We have 20 more games to go and need to win most of them, but I believe this team has the potential and if we get to the World Cup and beat full member nations, we can leave our mark on the competition and we can show that we have a right on the circuit.”
However, despite sitting in third place, Netravalkar has called for more consistency from his team. USA have won seven and lost nine of their matches to date, often exhibiting a win-loss pattern in their tournament results.
”We have the pieces, but what we lack is the consistency. Also considering the 2023 World Cup, we need to imbibe the youngsters into the team, who can take the team forward,” said Netravalkar.
There is indeed a strong focus on youth in USA cricket, with the board focusing on building a strong domestic structure. This is in conjunction with players including Corey Anderson and Unmukt Chand making the move to the USA, which can help youngsters mix it with experienced cricketers.
Minor League Cricket was established to help develop talent around the country, with an eye on Major League Cricket down the line. 210 games were played across the country, comprising of 27 teams divided into four divisions. This is in addition to Under-19 and women’s programs.
“There is a lot of emphasis on youth, they are investing a lot in the Under-19 programs and the Women’s programs”, said Netravalkar. “The Minor League Cricket had a rule where teams had to play two Under-19 players and one Under-21 player along with the international players. So the young players got a chance to share the dressing rooms with the likes of Unmukt Chand, Rovman Powell, Ashley Nurse.”
“US Cricket has academies across the US, where the overseas players travelling as professionals, are involved in mentoring the youth,” said Netravalkar.
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